Lessons from my Mother: Halloween

Whenever the leaves start changing colors, and the temperature drops just slightly, I am reminded of my mother. This may well be because her birthday is in September. It could also be my vivid memories of waking up early to go with her to the International Balloon Fiesta every October. Perhaps it’s because of our autumn hikes up the La Luz trail to Sandia Peak amongst a thick sea of bright yellow aspen leaves. It could be her infamous pumpkin bread, or her annual Pumpkin Parties (which I plan to bring to Brooklyn this year). For me, fall is synonymous with Mom and all of the wonderful lessons I have learned from her. It is because of this that I have chosen to honor my mother with a series of blog posts where I impart some of her wisdom.

Halloween

As a kid, I spooked easily. It’s a wonder how a little kid who cried at the sight of our Halloween decorations turned into a grown woman whose favorite podcast discusses true crime and ghost stories, and who gets more of a pick-me-up from horror movies than even the best rom com. I was blessed to have a mother who spoke to me openly about my fears, and did her best to help me quell them with logic and reasoning. She taught me that while bad things do happen, that most of Halloween is make-believe.

I love Halloween.

Regardless of tradition and history, modern Halloween is a celebration of autumn and childhood. Trick-or-treating is an active, physical activity that allows you and your kids a chance to interact with other families in the neighborhood. A deeper importance of Halloween is that it teaches us not to fear death, but to celebrate it as a natural part of life and to find joy in the mysteries of the world. Halloween doesn’t discriminate, it’s for everyone.

While it’s true that I love all of the holidays, Halloween is by and large my favorite. I love scary movies, I love trick-or-treating, I love dressing up… I won’t be caught dead in a haunted house, but I am one of those people who lives Halloween all year long and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Let’s talk about my favorite holiday and I’ll throw out some tips from my momma in there too.

Costumes

Costumes are arguably the most fun part about Halloween. Even now, I start cooking up ideas for my Halloween costumes months in advance. I got lucky two years ago when shopping for a bathing suit in June, my Halloween costume found me in the form of a pair of Super Girl pajamas. Come October, I found a red pleather skirt and some red socks and I was ready to roll. I went as Supergirl for Halloween last year, too.

Supergirl 2015.png

While I’m not the biggest fan of doing the same thing twice in a row, I’m certainly no stranger to it. Halloween costumes are… wasteful and expensive. Pre made Halloween costumes are cheaply made, and can cost anywhere from $40 to over $100, for something you can really only wear once a year.

The most use my family ever got out of a costume was in the early 90’s. My sister was the adorable bunny, Thumper, from the Disney movie Bambi for two years in a row. The following two years, I was Thumper. We got a solid four years out of that costume. We completed our bunny look with pink lipstick noses and eyeliner whiskers. There’s absolutely no shame in reusing old costumes, especially if your kids are too young to remember what they were for Halloween last year! You could also make slight alterations. One example would be, if you went as… let’s say Thumper, one year but the following year your costume looks a little beat up: you can intentionally trash it, rub some dirt in it, splatter some red food dye on it and go as “Dead Thumper”.

Supergirl 2015 (1).png

You can save a buck sometimes by making your own DIY costumes, so long as you keep it simple. One year, my sister and I both went as candy. My sister was a sheet of candy dots. My mom made her costume out of white posterboard and styrofoam ball halves spray painted different colors and glued on. She wore it like a sandwich board with a hot pink baseball cap. That same year, I insisted that I go as a Hersey’s kiss. My brave mother, who is not a seamstress, begrudgingly bought a pattern and fabric and spent weeks building what turned out to be quite an elaborate costume. I’m not sure if in the end she wound up saving much money. My sister and I did win a few costume contests though.

Lessons Learned: There’s no shame is reusing old costumes, and if you go the DIY route, simple is best!

Candy

Sure, you could go the standard route and buy a bag of fun size whatever from the corner store to please the trick-or-treaters. Or- you could go the extra mile to surprise and delight the kiddos by dressing up your Halloween treats! Why should the kids have all the fun? Your candy deserves a costume too. I’m speaking of course about lollipop ghosts.

Now, I know my mother didn’t come up with this idea. This image was borrowed from one of the many arts & crafts mommy blogs I found when researching. But I have fond memories from nearly every Halloween, of turning regular old tootsie pops into spooky spirits with my mom. It’s so easy. All you need is a bag of lollipops, a box of tissues, rubber bands, string, or ribbon, and a black marker.

Drape the tissue over the top of the sucker and secure around the base with a rubber band. Use the black marker to draw a little face and ta-dah! They’re cute, and you don’t have to tamper with the actual candy or remove the wrapper, so they’re perfectly acceptable to hand out to trick-or-treaters.

Take-Aways 

  1. Feel no shame when reusing old Halloween costumes. You can alter, add, or change something to make it feel different if you wish- or else just say “To heck with it- if Jenni’s family can get four years out of a ratty old Thumper costume than I can certainly do this lady Ghostbuster thing one more time”.

  2. Spice up your tired treat bag by putting little costumes on your candy. Lollipop ghosts are clearly the best (no bias here, guys) but feel free to mess around with other craft tricks. Maybe glue some googly eyes to your fun-size Snickers bars, or little cardstock bat wings to a Milky Way?

  3. Intentionally scaring your kids isn’t funny, it’s mean. If you have an easily spooked kid, it’s up to you to help them feel safe this Halloween season. Ask them what scares them and why. Reassure them that you will keep them safe. Halloween is about joy and light and celebrating life!

 

...and candy. It’s about candy.

 

Jenni Walkowiak is one of Brooklyn Creative League's community managers (1).png